Eliminated from the race for the Western Athletic Conference title, Ceres High's varsity girls soccer team still had a lot to play for when competing against back-to-back champion/crosstown-rival Central Valley last week.
The Bulldogs snapped the Hawks' 17-game unbeaten streak and secured the WAC's second playoff spot with a thrilling 1-0 victory on Thursday at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park.
"We didn't get first place," Ceres High head coach Miguel Saldate said. "But we put a loss on Central Valley's record."
"Of course, we didn't want to lose," Central Valley head coach Maria Briones said. "We're still league champions. This loss is going to push us harder in the playoffs. The girls are going to be eager to win."
Ceres High moved its overall record to 12-6-3.
The Bulldogs placed second in the WAC standings (11-4-0) behind the Hawks for the second consecutive season.
Ceres High made program history by claiming its first-ever conference title during the 2014-15 school year.
"We didn't have any pressure on us today," Saldate aid. "We seemed more relaxed than other games. We were focused on getting second place."
Central Valley improved to 19-2-1 on the year.
The first-place Hawks (13-1-1) successfully defended their WAC title.
"It's so amazing to see the connection we've had the entire season," Briones said. "The girls have a winning mentality. That's helped them the entire year."
Ceres High sophomore Mariah Trevino accounted for the winning goal against Central Valley last week.
She scored off a cross pass from freshman Arianah Martinez with less than five minutes to play in the game.
"I had a feeling someone was going to score," Saldate said. "Everybody played well. The girls did awesome."
Added Briones: "It's not a bad loss. It was a very equal game. The girls worked hard.
Central Valley competed shorthanded versus Ceres High last week.
The Bulldogs were missing five players, including starters Mariana Garibay, Andrea Ornelas and Estefani Serrato.
Garibay (defender) and Ornelas (defender) were both out of town.
Serrato (forward) was sidelined for an unspecified reason.
"We had to play more defensive today," Briones said.
Saldate and his players celebrated at Round Table Pizza after securing a narrow win against Central Valley.
The Bulldogs lost 2-1 and 4-1 to the Hawks earlier this season.
"I'm happy," Miguel said. "Everybody is happy. The girls worked a little harder than they normally do today. They were very focused and very motivated. Everybody did their job."
Ceres High and Central Valley will both participate in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the third year in a row.
The Hawks have won the last two WAC titles.
The Bulldogs placed first during the 2014-15 school year.
"It's very neat to see both teams from both schools succeed," Briones said.
"There's so much talent," Saldate said.
Sixth-seeded Central Valley will play host to No. 11 St. Mary's (5-4-7, 3-1-6 Tri-City Athletic League) in the Division-II playoffs today.
Fourteenth-seeded Ceres High will face No. 3 Merced (17-2-5, 8-1-3 Central California Conference) in the D-III bracket on the road at McNamara Park.
Both games are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
"I have full confidence that our team is going to step up," Briones said. "They're hungry to win the next game because we lost. The blue banner is what we're shooting for. If that was to happen, it would be amazing."
"If our girls play like they did today, I think we can do something good," Saldate said.